Midweek Advent 3: Living in the “Here and Now”

Lessons: Psalm 23, 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10, Luke 12:35-48
Hymns: 342, 672, 349

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      As Christians, we live in the here and now. Yet we also remember where we came from and where we are going. In all this, our eyes remain fixed on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith.

      We live in the here and now in that we cannot go back into the past and change it, nor will worrying about the future do any good. God did not place us in a previous time, nor has He seen it fit for us to live in a future time. We remember our collective past and the many mercies of God as they unfolded throughout the Scripture and in history ever since. And we also anticipate the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come in great splendor and glory, and will grant everlasting life to all who believe in Him.

      Next week, we will look back and remember one of the greatest events in world history—the birth of Jesus. As we observe His nativity, we reflect on the reality that the eternal God became flesh and made His dwelling among us. God became Man! As our Savior! The Second Person of the Triune God took on human flesh. This most magnificent reality is something for us to always dwell on and look back on with great wonder and amazement.

      In the Church Year, we call the collective seasons from Advent to Pentecost the festival half of the church year. We follow Christ from His Advent in the flesh to His crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. We look back at all of this with holy awe and joy.

      Next week, we will even sing an excellent Christmas hymn that says, “Oh, that we were there! Oh, that we were there!” (LSB 386 “Now Sing We, Now Rejoice”). It sure would have been amazing to be those shepherds who were greeted by the angels with the announcement of our Lord’s birth and were the Christ-child’s first visitors. Or to be the Magi who came to offer our newborn King gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Yet, God saw it fit for us to live in this age, and not in that day.

      The people of Old Testament looked forward to that day. Year in and year out, they waited in anticipation. And when the fullness of time came, God sent His only-begotten Son into the world to redeem the world. Yet, the people of the Old Testament fulfilled their days doing what God called them to do in their various vocations. They labored. They raised their families. They walked in the ways God would have them go.

      They lived in the present time for them. They looked back at the great works of God, such as Creation, the Flood, the Exodus, Jonah, and many other events recorded in the Scriptures. And they looked ahead to the coming of Christ. All the while they lived in their “here and now” as they fulfilled their vocations, doing the good works God had in store for them.

      The shepherds and the Magi, after seeing the baby Jesus, returned to their own vocations.

      God has seen it fit for you to live in this present age—a time when food is in abundance—a time when amenities are all around us—a time when we have easy access to heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer—a time when online communication breaks down many barriers that would otherwise isolate people—a time of advanced medicine and much knowledge.

      And so, we live in the here and now. We do good to all. We serve our neighbors with good works. We remember and repeat the great works of God as recorded in Scripture. And we look forward to the return of Jesus on the Last Day. We know that we cannot go back to live during some of the amazing Bible times, nor can we fast-forward to our Lord’s return. And so we wait in eager expectation.

      As we live our everyday lives, we are tempted to think God may be distant or is not active in our lives. We don’t always see His plans as they slowly unfold all around us. But when we consider where we are at as 2020 draws to a close, we can see God at work throughout it all. While everyone is wearied by the pandemic, we are not suffering bodily as much as anticipated. Some with COVID-19 have no symptoms. People’s health could have been poorer, the economy could have suffered more, and the general welfare of the people could have fared much worse.

      God has been with us. In the here and now. And God will continue to be present among us—even during times of cross and trial.

      In our first reading today, God reminds us and comforts us, saying, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

      You see, while we live in the “here and now,” we also look forward to the future reality of Christ’s return, the judgment of the living and the dead, and the life everlasting. We can’t see the future, but we know His return is coming.

      Just as the Old Testament people looked forward to Christ’s first coming, so also we look forward to His second coming. Jesus even teaches us to be ready and stay awake, for He will come at a time that many will not expect. As we live in the “here and now,” we must not get so caught up in it that we forget that Christ has redeemed us through the shedding of His blood, or that we will someday face that great day of reckoning.

      That’s why it is important to keep on hearing the Word of God, receiving His gifts—to keep on remembering the great works of God in Scripture and the marvelous promises of the things to come. It is even good for us to keep on praying, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” For we know that when He returns, He will make all things new. Our bodies will be raised to immortality. We will dwell with our Lord forever. We will be perfect in every way. We will no longer face corruption or sin. To adapt the words of the Christmas hymn, “Oh, that we were there! Oh, that we were there!” Imagine how glorious it will be when we see God face to face, live in all perfection, and suffer no hardship or difficulty.

      When Jesus returns in glory, He will acquit us sinners who have received Christ. He will declare us not guilty. He will count us as righteous ones who have done everything well. We will receive our reward for the good we have done. That is, Jesus will credit us with His very righteousness so that we will appear before God as truly holy—having done everything perfectly. And we will receive the reward for these blessings—everlasting life and salvation. He will recreate the Heavens and the Earth so that they will be perfect. We will dwell with Him in our perfect bodies.

      These blessings are not something we earn, but are granted to us by grace through faith. For through faith, God forgives our sin and reckons us as holy ones. He sees in us the perfection of Christ and declares to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come to My banquet feast. All things are now ready.”

      Oh, that we were there! But in the here and now, we redeem the time, and serve God and neighbor through our various vocations, rejoicing in the confidence that Christ will bring us with Him to everlasting life. Amen.

     The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen